Skip to main content

4.3.2.1. Recent changes in national lists of safe countries 

During periodic reviews, new countries may be determined as safe and others may be withdrawn from the national list.

Safe country of origin

In 2022, several EU+ countries revised their lists of safe countries. The main changes occurred in Cyprus,Περί Ασφαλών Χωρών Ιθαγένειας Διάταγμα του 2022 (Διάταγμα 202/2022) [Decree on Safe Countries of Origin 2022 (Decree 202/2022)], May 27, 2022. Estonia,European Union Agency for Asylum. (December 2022). Applying the Concept of Safe Countries in the Asylum Procedure. https://euaa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/publications/2022-12/2022_sa…Greece,Κοινή Υπουργική Απόφαση (Αριθμ. οικ. 78391) Κατάρτιση Εθνικού Καταλόγου χωρών καταγωγής που χαρακτηρίζονται ως ασφαλείς, σύμφωνα με την παρ. 5 του άρθρου 87 του ν. 4636/2019 (Α’ 169), ΦΕΚ Β’ – 667/ 15-02-2022 [Joint Ministerial Decision (No. 78391) Establishing a national list of countries of origin designated as safe, in accordance with article 87(5) of Law 4636/2019 (A’169), Gov.Gaz B’ -667/15-02-2022], February 15, 2022. https://migration.gov.gr/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/%CE%A6%CE%95%CE%9A-… Iceland,European Union Agency for Asylum. (December 2022). Applying the Concept of Safe Countries in the Asylum Procedure. https://euaa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/publications/2022-12/2022_sa… NorwayNorwegian Directorate of Immigration | Utlendingsdirektoratet. (2022, February 24). UDI 2021-009V Land i 48-timersprosedyren [UDI 2021-009V Country in the 48-hour procedure]. https://www.udiregelverk.no/rettskilder/udi-retningslinjer/udi-2021-009…  and Slovenia.Odlok o določitvi seznama varnih izvornih držav [Decree on establishing a list of safe countries of origin], March 31, 2022. http://www.pisrs.si/Pis.web/pregledPredpisa?id=ODLO2607  Belgium was the only country where no changes were introduced,Arrêté royal du 14 janvier 2022 portant exécution de l'article 57/6/1, § 3, alinéa 4, de la loi du 15 décembre 1980 sur l'accès au territoire, le séjour, l'établissement et l'éloignement des étrangers, établissant la liste des pays d'origine sûrs [Royal decree of 14 January 2022, implementing article 57/6/1(3) 4) of the Law of 15 December 1980 on access to the territory, residence, settlement and removal of foreigners, establishing a list of safe countries of origin], January 14, 2022. https://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/eli/arrete/2022/01/14/2022020096/just… although in March 2023, the Council of Ministers approved the removal of Georgia from the list.Council of Ministers | Ministerraad | Conseil des ministres. (2023, March 17). Détermination des pays d’origine sûrs [Determination of safe countries of origin]. https://news.belgium.be/fr/determination-des-pays-dorigine-surs

In the Netherlands, the State Secretary announced in 2021 that 12 countries will be removed because there was no substantial interest or relevance to keep them on the list.European Union Agency for Asylum. (June 2022). Asylum Report 2022. https://euaa.europa.eu/asylum-report-2022  In addition, it maintained the United States,State Secretary for Justice and Security | Staatssecretaris van Justitie en Veiligheid. (2022. May 11). Kamerbrief over herbeoordeling VS als veilig land van herkomst [Parliamentary letter on the re-assessment of the US as a safe country of origin]. https://open.overheid.nl/documenten/ronl-a94f9c9ad9a8b0070798bf49ec244e… Armenia (with the exception of LGBTIQ applicants and persons who have been placed in criminal detention),State Secretary for Justice and Security | Staatssecretaris van Justitie en Veiligheid. (2022, April 26). Kamerbrief over herbeoordeling veilige landen van herkomst Armenië [Parliamentary letter on the reassessment of Armenia as a safe country of origin list]. https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/kamerstukken/2022/04/26/tk-herb… and Trinidad and Tobago (with the exception of LGBTIQ applicants)State Secretary for Justice and Security | Staatssecretaris van Justitie en Veiligheid. (2022, February 23). Kamerbrief over herbeoordeling veilige landen van herkomst Trinidad en Tobago [Parliamentary letter on the reassessment of Trinidad and Tobago as a safe country of origin]. https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/asielbeleid/documenten/kamerst… as safe countries of origin.

On 5 April 2022, the Council of State ruled that specific groups within a country can be excluded from the designation of a safe country of origin. Until this ruling was delivered, the Netherlands could opt to pay special attention to specific groups that did not completely meet the threshold to be excluded from the safe country of origin designation. Therefore, the accelerated procedure in Track 2 still applied. With the new ruling, all groups to which special attention was given in Track 2 were subsequently excluded from the safe country of origin designation.

In Ireland, the International Protection Act was amended to allow for the prioritisation of applications from safe countries of origin and for the acceleration of the appeal procedure in front of the International Protection Appeals Tribunal (IPAT).S.I. No. 541/2022 - European Communities (International Protection Procedures) Regulations 2022, October 27, 2022. https://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2022/si/541/made/en/  Under the revised procedure, applicants from safe countries of origin receive a date for their substantive interview within 4 to 6 weeks of making the initial application.AIDA Ireland. (2023). Country Report: Ireland - 2022 Update. Edited by ECRE. Written by the Irish Refugee Council. https://asylumineurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/AIDA-IE_2022updat…

In October 2022, a fast-track procedure was re-introduced in Switzerland for certain countries of origin: countries on the list of safe countries of origin, visa-exempt countries, and – because of the high number of insufficiently-justified claims – Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. This procedure merges the normally separate procedures of the Dublin interview and interviews in the national asylum procedure according to AsylA, Articles 26 and 29. According to the SEM, this would allow the asylum procedure to be completed more quickly.AIDA Switzerland. (2023). Country Report: Switzerland - 2022 Update. Edited by ECRE. Written by Swiss Refugee Council. https://asylumineurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/AIDA-CH_2022-Upda…

For specific groups of applicants, aditus strongly criticised the presence of a number of countries on the safe country list in Malta because they discriminate and criminalise LGBTIQ individuals. The organisation pointed out that this practice undermines the proper safeguards at second instance for these individuals who are fleeing persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, especially in cases where the first instance decision rejects the application as manifestly unfounded.AIDA Malta. (2023). Country Report: Malta - 2022 Update. Edited by ECRE. Written by aditus foundation. https://asylumineurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/AIDA-MT_2022-Upda… The International Protection Agency stated that all procedural guarantees apply within the accelerated procedure.

Following the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukraine was removed or de facto suspended in all EU+ countries that had previously designated Ukraine as a safe country of origin (Austria,Verordnung der Bundesregierung, mit der die Verordnung der Bundesregierung, mit der Staaten als sichere Herkunftsstaaten festgelegt werden (Herkunftsstaaten-Verordnung – HStV) geändert wird [Federal Government Regulation amending the Federal Government Regulation designating countries as safe countries of origin (Countries of Origin Regulation – HStV)], March 30, 2022. https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/eli/bgbl/II/2022/129/20220330  Cyprus,Περί Ασφαλών Χωρών Ιθαγένειας Διάταγμα του 2022 (Διάταγμα 202/2022) [Decree on Safe Countries of Origin 2022 (Decree 202/2022)], May 27, 2022. https://www.mof.gov.cy/mof/gpo/gazette.nsf/7727D72567EC96F4C225884F0023…  Czechia, Estonia, Greece,Κοινή Υπουργική Απόφαση (Αριθμός 708368) Κατάρτιση Εθνικού Καταλόγου χωρών καταγωγής που χαρακτηρίζονται ως ασφαλείς, σύμφωνα με την παρ. 5 του άρθρου 92 του ν. 4939/2022 (Α’111), ΦΕΚ Β’ – 6012/25.11.2022 [Joint Ministerial Decision (No. 708368) Establishing a national list of countries of origin designated as safe, in accordance with article 92(5) of Law 4939/2022 (A’111), Gov.Gaz B’ -6012/25.11.2022], November 25, 2022. http://www.et.gr/idocs-nph/search/pdfViewerForm.html?args=5C7QrtC22wGGr…Iceland,Ministry of Justice | Dómsmálaráðuneytið. (2022, February 24). Úkraína þegar farin af lista yfir örugg ríki [Ukraine already removed from the list of safe countries]. https://www.stjornarradid.is/efst-a-baugi/frettir/stok-frett/2022/02/24…  Italy,Decreto 9 marzo 2022 del Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale Revisione della lista dei Paesi sicuri per i richiedenti protezione internazionale [Decree of 9 March 2022 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Revision of the list of safe countries for applicants for international protection], March 9, 2022. https://www.gazzettaufficiale.it/atto/serie_generale/caricaDettaglioAtt…  Luxembourg and the NetherlandsState Secretary for Justice and Security | Staatssecretaris van Justitie en Veiligheid. (2022, February 28). Kamerbrief over instellen besluit en vertrekmoratorium Oekraïne [Parliamentary letter on establishing a decision and return moratorium for Ukraine]. https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/asielbeleid/documenten/kamerst… ).

The change in the security situation in Ukraine led the Supreme Administrative Court in Czechia to accept appeals lodged before February 2022 by Ukrainian nationals based on the safe country of origin concept and held that these cases should be re-considered due to the ongoing armed conflict.

In S.H. v Malta (Application No 37241/21), the ECtHR found that there had been violations of Article 13 in conjunction with Article 3 of the Convention when Malta ordered the return of an applicant to Bangladesh, which the International Protection Act deems as a safe country of origin. Under Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court, the ECtHR indicated to the Maltese government not to expel the applicant.

Similarly, the Tribunal of Catania overturned a negative decision and stated that Tunisia cannot be considered a safe country of origin due to the deteriorating the security situation.

The Court of the Hague overturned decisions given to some applicants from safe countries of origin. In one case it found that the determining authority had not asked sufficient questions during the interview with an applicant from Georgia, and in another, there was insufficient investigation of the individual circumstances of the applicant from Armenia.

The Dutch Council of State underlined that even when a country is considered as a safe country for origin for unaccompanied children, the authority should examine if adequate reception is available in the return country.

In contrast, national courts upheld the designation of some countries as safe countries of origin. There was no information available to challenge the designation for Cameroon, Egypt, Georgia and Morocco.

The Irish High Court sent several cases back to IPAT to re-examine whether Georgia can be considered as safe for victims of domestic violence (see Section 5.2).

Safe third country

Only a few changes were reported for national lists of safe third countries in 2022. Following the Russian invasion, Estonia removed Ukraine from the list on 25 May 2022.

Greece introduced the list in June 2021, specifying Türkiye as a safe third country for certain nationalities.Κοινή Υπουργική Απόφαση Αριθμ. 42799 Καθορισμός τρίτων χωρών που χαρακτηρίζονται ως ασφαλείς και κατάρτιση εθνικού καταλόγου, κατά τα οριζόμενα στο άρθρο 86 του ν. 4636/2019 (Α’ 169), ΦΕΚ B 2425/2021 [Joint Ministerial Decision No 42799 Designating third countries considered as safe and drawing up a national list, in accordance with Article 86 of Law 4636/2019 (Gov.Gaz. A 169), Government Gazette B 2425/2021], June 7, 2021. Τροποποίηση της υπ’ αρ. 42799/03.06.2021 κοινής απόφασης των Υπουργών Εξωτερικών και Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου «Καθορισμός τρίτων χωρών που χαρακτηρίζονται ως ασφαλείς και κατάρτιση εθνικού καταλόγου κατά τα οριζόμενα στο άρθρο 86 του ν. 4636/2019 (Α’ 169)» (Β’ 2425), ΦΕΚ Β’ – 5949/16.12.2021 [Amendment to the Joint Ministerial Decision No 42799/03.06.2021 of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Migration and Asylum “Designation of safe third countries and establishment of a national list in accordance with Article 86 of Law No 4636/2019 (A’169)” (Β’ 2425), Gov.Gaz B’ -5949/16.12.2021], December 16, 2021.  The list was further supplemented in December 2021 with the addition of applicants entering from Albania and North Macedonia.Τροποποίηση της υπ’ αρ. 42799/03.06.2021 κοινής απόφασης των Υπουργών Εξωτερικών και Μετανάστευσης και Ασύλου «Καθορισμός τρίτων χωρών που χαρακτηρίζονται ως ασφαλείς και κατάρτιση εθνικού καταλόγου κατά τα οριζόμενα στο άρθρο 86 του ν. 4636/2019 (Α’ 169)» (Β’ 2425), ΦΕΚ Β’ – 5949/16.12.2021 [Amendment to the Joint Ministerial Decision No 42799/03.06.2021 of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Migration and Asylum “Designation of safe third countries and establishment of a national list in accordance with Article 86 of Law No 4636/2019 (A’169)” (Β’ 2425), Gov.Gaz B’ -5949/16.12.2021], December 16, 2021.

The retention of Türkiye as a safe third country on 12 December 2022Κοινή Υπουργική Απόφαση (Αριθμός 734214) Καθορισμός τρίτων χωρών που χαρακτηρίζονται ως ασφαλείς και κατάρτιση εθνικού καταλόγου κατά τα οριζόμενα στο άρθρο 91 του ν. 4939/2022 (Α’ 111), ΦΕΚ Β’ – 6250/12.12.2022 [Joint Ministerial Decision No. 734214 Designation of safe third countries and establishment of a national list in accordance with Article 91 of Law No 4939/2022 (A’111), Gov.Gaz B’ -6250/12.12.2022], December 12, 2022. http://www.et.gr/idocs-nph/search/pdfViewerForm.html?args=5C7QrtC22wGGr… drew a strong reaction from civil society organisations.European Council on Refugees and Exiles. (21 Octoberr 2022). Greece: Paradox – Greek Government Defines Türkiye a “Shame for Civilization” Amid Stand-off Over Abuse of 92 People in Evros but Deems the Country Safe for Asylum Seekers, Crack-down on NGOs Continue as Smear Campaign Backfires. https://ecre.org/greece-paradox-greek-government-defines-turkiye-a-sham…; European Council on Refugees and Exiles. (2022, October 28). Greece: HRW Finds Türkiye Increasingly Unsafe for Refugees and Calls for EU Pressure to Repeal JMD, Pushbacks and Abuse Continue and Recognised Refugees are Left in Destitution. https://ecre.org/greece-hrw-finds-turkiye-increasingly-unsafe-for-refug…; European Council on Refugees and Exiles. (2022, November 4). Greece: Two Deadly Shipwrecks in the Aegean, Continued Pushbacks and Non-Response by Authorities, NGOs Urge a Repeal of Safe Third Country List. https://ecre.org/greece-two-deadly-shipwrecks-in-the-aegean-continued-p…; Greek Council for Refugees | Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες. (2023). Input to the Asylum Report 2023. https://euaa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/2023-02/greek_council_for_re…  15 NGOs addressed a letter to the Director of the Asylum Service, noting that the latest European Commission report on Türkiye (SWD(2022) 333)European Commission. (2022, October 12). Commission Staff Working Document - Türkiye Report 2022: Accompanying the document Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions 2022 Communication on EU Enlargement policy. SWD(2022) 333 final. https://neighbourhood-enlargement.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2022-10/T%C… counters Greece’s designation of Türkiye as a safe third country for refugees.Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) et al. (2022, October 27). European Commission dispels Greece’s designation of Türkiye as a “safe third country” for refugees – Repeal the national list of safe third countries. β/72/27.10.2022. https://rsaegean.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/2022-10-27_SafeThirdCou… The lack of readmission leading to prolonged detention on the islands was also criticised by NGOs.Refugee Support Aegean, & Stiftung PRO ASYL. (February 2022). Greece arbitrarily deems Turkey a “safe third country” in flagrant violation of rights. https://rsaegean.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/RSA_STC_LegalNote_EN.pdf

Members of the European Parliament (E-001347/2022) raised with the European Commission the issue of the applicability of the recast APD, Article 38(4) as Türkiye had suspended all transfers from Greece.European Parliament. (2022, April 5). Parliamentary question: Application of the safe third country concept in Greece in relation to Article 38(4) [E-001347/2022]. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2022-001347_EN.html  The European Commission underlined that if the applicant is not permitted to enter the safe third country, in particular if the underlying situation preventing entry persists since 2018 or 2020, the Member State should ensure that access to the asylum procedure is given, in accordance with the recast APD.European Parliament. (2022, June 22). Parliamentary questions: Answer given by Ms Johansson on behalf of the European Commission [E-001347/2022]. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/E-9-2022-001347-ASW_EN.pdf  The Refugee Support Aegean and the Greek Refugee Council submitted an annulment of this piece of legislation to the Greek Council of State, which referred questions to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling.Greek Council for Refugees | Ελληνικό Συμβούλιο για τους Πρόσφυγες. (2023). Input to the Asylum Report 2023. https://euaa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/2023-02/greek_council_for_re…

However, despite the suspension of returns to Türkiye since March 2020, applications lodged by applicants falling under the scope of Joint Ministerial Decision 42799/2021 (FEK B’ 2425/07.06.2021) in 2022 were still examined in the context of the safe third country concept and the fast-track border procedure. The Appeals Committee does not apply Article 38(4) of the Procedural Directive to applications rejected as inadmissible on the basis of the safe third country concept with regard to Türkiye, despite the fact that readmissions to Türkiye have been suspended since March 2020. It is only in a limited number of cases that the Appeals Committee proceeded to an in-merit examination of an application. UNHCR continued its advocacy for the examination on the merits, based on its public statement issued in August 2021.United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2021, August 2). UNHCR’s Position and Recommendations on the Safe Third Country Declaration by Greece. https://www.unhcr.org/gr/en/22885-unhcrs-position-and-recommendations-o…

Challenges were also brought up by the Norwegian Organisation of Asylum Seekers (NOAS) about the application of the concept of the safe third country. NOAS proposed a series of legislative and procedural changes to ensure that asylum seekers who are returned to a safe third country following the Immigration Act, Section 32(1d) are not exposed to the risk of refoulement, including chain refoulement.Linha, M. (2022). Seeking Asylum in Norway: Access to Territory, Safe Third Country and Non-Penalization. Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers | Norsk organisasjon for asylsøkere (NOAS). https://www.noas.no/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/NOAS_Seeking-Asylum-in-N…